Riding the Rapids

Trip Start Jul 23, 2002
Trip End Jul 23, 2003

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Flag of Peru  ,
Tuesday, April 1, 2003

Okay this is where you get the story of my thumb.
It all started with five of the guys from the jungle plus me deciding that it would be a fun thing to go rafting while we were in Cuzco. Now the first thing is that I didn't learn anything from the time in the jungle and decided that two more days spent with the guys would be a good idea - always good when the others wish you good luck, you'll need it with those guys. And then the other thing was that putting yourself on an inflatable raft and hurling yourself down rapids sounds like a lot of fun and an adrenaline rush, and it is. But also potentially dangerous.

In Peru at this time it is the wet season so there is a lot of water in the rivers, which has meant that the four day trips aren't running because the water is too fast to do it safely. So we went for the 2 day trip. The first day saw us drive to the river, get all the equipment set up and have a briefing on what was happening. Then it was onto the river to put it into practice. After some drills on the calmer water it was off into the rapids and our first introduction on a class 3. On the calmer waters we had a try at capsizing the boat, so we'd know what to do when thrown out and got completely wet for the first time. Disappearing into the water and emerging under the raft is a little disorientating, but you find your way out and all is fine, until it comes time to right the raft. Me and Simon ended up drifting out of reach of the raft as it's flipped and floated down to the other raft to be dragged out of the water and taken back to our own raft. Then it's the turn of the other raft and they all emerge fine, no one disappearing under the raft or anything.

The next few hours were spent drifting down the river through several class 3 and 4 rapids and through some amazing scenery. It's such a difference to be out of the jungle and into the mountains. As we drifted along there were small villages along the waters edge, as well as sheer cliffs and amazing mountain scenery. when not busily paddling, it was nice to just soak up the scenery, although all the rubbish in the river detracted a bit from the sight.

The day was really cool with the raft disappearing into the water several times and you'd look ahead and go, oh shit, as you saw what was coming up. We made it through without major incident, except for a couple of lost paddles, one which the other group recovered, and the other which the river claimed. The other group had a little more excitement with most people being thrown out at one point, although everyone got back in fine. The last bit of the day's paddling I ended up just sitting watching the others work as the quide had lost his paddle and so was using mine. A chance to enjoy the experience, without having to paddle - the boys are useful for something.

Back on land it was time to get some dry clothes and lunch before packing up and heading to a lake where we were camping for the night. The boys had a bit of a game of soccer with the locals but weren't used to the altitude so weren't quite so good on their feet as the locals. After dinner it was time to call it a night as it was getting quite chilly - compared to being in the jungle anyway.

The second day we were heading along a section of river with class 3, 4 and 5 rapids. going to be a bit harder, but we were looking forward to it as yesterday had been so much fun. So after packing up and meeting up with a few others who were joining us for the day we set off. The change in the people in the group meant the 6 of us from the jungle ended up all being in the same boat which was pretty cool as we were used of each other after the time and knew what to expect of each other. We ended up getting a decent rhythm going, although it all went astray once we got into the rapids and were being thrown around more - and also paddling air at times.

The second day there were more rafts on the river with another group also there, plus there was the rescue/video and photo raft, and the safety kayaker who were flying through the water as well. So we staggered our way through the rapids, pulling to the side as others went past, and waiting for the photo crew to get in position - hence why we have the photos you can see here. The day was great with fantastic rapids, a good vibe on the boat and more great scenery. Three of us got thrown out of our boat, Paul disappeared on one instance, and then Simon and I disappeared on another instance. This time leaving the raft was a little more than just a dip in the river, as we were in rapids at the time, so I got dunked several times before being dragged back into the raft. Certainly gets the adrenaline levels high. The worst thing about having multiple groups was that you spent a bit of time sitting around waiting and that was when you really felt the cold, and being wet for 3 hours meant you weren't particularly warm.

In the last minutes of the trip though was when I gave my left hand a new form. Not sure exactly what happened but we were thrown forward on one rapid and as I sat up I looked down at my hand and saw that my thumb had taken up a new position from the palm of my hand. That was why I couldn't hold the paddle properly. Couldn't feel it being sore though as my hand was so cold I just couldn't feel it at all. Somehow my hand, the paddle and Simon's arse had collided and my thumb had come out of it the worst for wear. We came out of the rapids and all looked around to see if everyone was still in the boat and okay, and I wasn't able to return the thumbs up that Ewan kept trying to give me.

So the last five minutes were spent with the boys madly paddling through the last of the rapids and then trying to get the raft onto the shore where we were finishing. Meanwhile I was holding on with my good hand and trying to keep my other hand from being hit (not overly successfully). Luckily I did the injury just as we were coming to the end - best time to do it if it has to happen at all.

Back on shore, it was into the car and around the block to the hospital where it was try to exchange details with limited Spanish and through chattering teeth. Once in dry and warm clothes, and after a shot of morphine, it was back to the others and some lunch before heading into Cuzco. Thumb still wasn't hurting as my hand was so cold, and the morphine helped, and in the group photo I've even got a smile (and my thumb is still dislocated).

Back in Cuzco it was a visit to a Peruvian hospital for a consult, some x-rays and then the relocation of my thumb. There was a lot of waiting time, and Paul had to do a dash into the town centre to get some money out, so we could pay before they'd see me. Eventually though I had some impressive x-rays to carry around with me, and after a couple of local anaesthetics my thumb was put back into position. And then I got a beautiful bit of plaster wrapped around my thumb for the next 10 days, which made doing ordinary things a little more difficult.

So after a couple of very enjoyable days on the river, and a visit to hospital, it was time to go and pack ready to head out on the Inca Trail the next day. I little bit of plaster wasn't going to stop me - plus I had Simon and Paul with me to help out with carrying, etc.
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